What this executive learnt from an “embarrassing” public speaking event

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Public speaking is considered a notoriously nerve-wracking task even among high level managers, but while there are times when you feel totally confident about a presentation the key is not to get too cocky, says one company executive.

Kevin Getch, director of digital strategy at Canadian web design company Webfor, gives a post-mortem of one of his presentations to Tech.Co this week, urging others to learn from his mistakes.

Getch recounts being invited to introduce a chief executive speaker at the Seattle Interactive Conference, explaining that while he didn’t envisage the simple presentation would end up being so embarrassing.

The main problem? He got over-confident and prepared too late. Getch says this meant that when it came time to introduce his colleague, he wasn’t able to draw on the introduction he’d written the night before.

“Just as I started introducing Sarah and talking about her accomplishments, I stumbled over my words. My mind went blank,” he says.

After a number of stumbles during the brief presentation, Getch walked away with a newfound appreciation for preparing calmly and staying humble, no matter how straightforward the event is.

“Every moment you have on stage is a gift of people’s time and attention, so you should never turn it away by preparing inadequately,” he writes.

Read more: Do you make these four common mistakes when giving a presentation?

Take time to understand the format 

Delivering a solid preparation or speech isn’t just about getting the content right, says Getch. It’s also about understanding the format of the event and even the layout of the stage.

“Ask the staff what is expected of you. Know your cues,” he recommends.

In Seattle, Getch says he didn’t think to double check the format of the event, and mistakenly took a seat in the centre of the stage after introducing his colleague, who commenced her speech at the lectern.

He was left to shuffle off stage quietly while she was speaking.

He says the awkward moment could have been easily fixed by asking simple questions ahead of time.

“Had I talked to the staff beforehand, I would have known what to do after introducing her,” he says.

Covering off the basics before your presentation or speech is key, but what about if you’re still terrified of delivering it? Practice embarrassing yourself, says Getch.

“Head to a busy coffee shop, set up everything you’d need for your presentation, and deliver your speech as you would on the big day in front of everyone,” he suggests.

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